With all eyes on PyeongChang, South Korea and the XXIII Winter Olympic Games, it got us thinking about all of the offbeat sports Manitobans do to keep themselves entertained during the snowy season. Essentially, we have our own version of the Winter Olympics, but here, athletes set aside hockey and speed skates for...frozen turkeys and fish?
Crokicurl combines two of Manitoba’s favourite pastimes – the sport of curling with the tabletop game of crokinole – to make the ultimate Canadian sport. Both games share the same objective: slide a disc closest to the centre button to win, thus crokicurl (developed in 2017 by a Winnipeg architect firm) is a witty mashup that's gaining international attention. The players compete on a quadrant-shaped rink, throwing pseudo-curling rocks toward the centre and positioning them on the bullseye playing surface to accumulate the most points. Crokicurl is set up on the Plaza at The Forks for the public to play for free until winter lasts.
Horse skijoring, Falcon Lake
Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes provides the venue, while neighbouring Falcon Beach Ranch provides the horses. The annual Snowdance Festival held each January in Falcon Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park is chock-full of hair-brained activities for outdoorsy Millennials, such as the turkey shoot (read below). But the most adrenaline-filled event is the equestrian skijoring, which might sound odd to a Manitoban, but is a totally legit sport in Norway. Athletes on skis or snowboard hold on to a tow rope and are pulled behind a horse and rider. At Snowdance, the name of the game is not speed but points, which participants gain as they slalom a portion of the course and then try to pick up a mini flag marked with a random value.
Frozen fish toss, Gimli
Those hardy Icelanders along Lake Winnipeg gather annually in early March to celebrate (and bid adieu) to winter at the Gimli Ice Festival. Among the many outdoor activities that happen on the ice in Gimli's harbour, the frozen fish toss is always a crowd favourite. Limber-armed participants pitch a frozen sauger or pickerel toward fishing buckets, hoping to sink it. Fish lips alert: judges award a second try if you kiss the fish before you throw it.
Flour packing competition, The Pas
At The Pas' venerable cultural event the Northern Manitoba Trapper's Festival, flour packing is one of 22 competitions that King Trapper wannabes sign up for to test their mettle. The event involves carrying giant sacks of flour upon their back – at minimum 600 lbs. – and walking six meters. This strongman competition is an ode to the ultimate outdoors men who plied the waters and woods of the North carrying unimaginable loads of furs and goods on their backs during frequent portages.
Leg wrestling, Saint-Boniface
The raucous Voyageur Games are held at the legendary Marion Hotel during Festival du Voyageur, a winter celebration that takes over Winnipeg's French district every February. Leg wrestling (essentially arm wrestling's lesser known cousin) is believed to be a sport passed down from First Nations and Inuit communities, where two opponents lie on the ground on their back, side by side, feet facing in opposite directions. On the count of three, they each raise a leg 90 degrees and try to hook it around the other player's knee and roll them over to their side for the win.
Kick sledding, Riding Mountain National Park
Manitoba's only national park accessible to leisure travellers does one heck of a job as selling itself as the place to be in winter. Well-groomed cross-country ski trails, guided snowshoe hikes, fat bike rentals, winterized oTENTiks for camping...and now kicksleds. These Scandanavian scooters are lightweight sleds usually characterized by a frame or chair mounted on flexible metal runners that are propelled by kicking ("sparking") the ground by foot. Rent a kicksled (AKA kickspark) for a few hours from the Friends of Riding Mountain information centre in the Wasagaming townsite and take your kids on an adventure on the trails around Clear Lake.
Turkey shoot, Falcon Lake
The folks at Falcon Trails Resort take winter lightly as is demonstrated by the hilarity that ensues at Snowdance, a zany winter gathering and music festival that they organize. No activity demonstrates their quirky woods-dwelling character better than the signature turkey shoot competition. Participants slide a frozen fowl across the ice and try to get closest to the pin - the winner takes home the bird!